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Maryland To Sue Luke Paper Mill Owners For Hazardous Waste Seepage

BALTIMORE, Md. — The Maryland Department of the Environment issued a notice of intent to sue the owner of the Luke Paper Mill in federal court Wednesday, for seepages into the Potomac River.

The state claimed a black substance continues to seep from a riverbank at the paper mill and into the river. They say the substance may include contaminants from caustic and corrosive "pulping liquor," coal ash, or other undiscovered sources.

Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles provided notice of the suit to Verso Corporation, the parent company of the mill.

"Maryland is taking this necessary step to protect public health and the Potomac River with the hope that it will accelerate the beneficial and productive reuse of the site," said Secretary Grumbles. "We cannot allow continued seepage into the river that puts our communities and ecosystems at risk."

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In December, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh filed a lawsuit in Allegany County Circuit Court alleging multiple violations of environmental law.

The suit is seeking an order to require Verso to stop discharging the pollution into Maryland waters. They also want the company to post warning signs and fix any problems caused by the pollution, in addition to paying any civil penalties.

"Seepage into the Potomac River from the paper mill jeopardizes the health of fish and wildlife and the health of citizens," said Attorney General Frosh. "We intend to file suit in federal court to halt further damage and force the company to take action to repair the damage that has been done."

In November, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection issued an order to Verso to empty pulping tanks on their side of the Potomac River. The Maryland Department of Environment claims in response, the company piped those materials into tanks in Maryland.

The notice of intent goes on to say that pulping liquors are dangerous materials and can cause severe skin or eye burns and respiratory problems.

The mill is located in Luke, Maryland on the north side of the Potomac River and manufactured paper products there beginning in 1888, until its closure in June 2019.

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